Pictorial warnings in packs of tobacco products from today

Pictorial warnings in packs of tobacco products from today


The government order in this regard has come despite stiff resistance from tobacco manufacturers.

The products will have to clearly display a "scorpion" and "lungs" as pictorial warnings. The picture should cover at least 40 per cent of the principal display area of the pack.

The products cannot carry any message that directly or indirectly promotes a specific tobacco brand or tobacco usage in general, the Health Ministry had said earlier this month.

The government had in August last year asked the manufacturers of cigarette, bidi and gutka products to display a skull-and-bone sign and a warning saying "tobacco smoking kills" on the packets so as to sensitise the public against smoking and consuming these items.

However, it could not be implemented at that time. Then the government fixed December one as the deadline.

According to WHO estimates, 65 per cent of men in India consume tobacco, with 22 per cent chewing and eight per cent smoking as well as chewing. There has been an increase in the consumption of tobacco among women, with about three per cent smoking 'bidis' or cigarettes and 22 per cent chewing tobacco.

The deadline was again missed after a Group of Ministers (GoM) chaired by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee decided to further defer it to May 31. The manufacturers had lobbied for the postponement of the deadline.

Now the warnings will come into effect from May 31, 2009, the ministry had said in the announcement.

The government has already passed the Cigarettes and other Tobacco Products (Prohibition of Advertisement and Regulation of Trade and Commerce, Production, Supply and Distribution) Act, which says there should be pictorial warning on the tobacco products.

India has also signed and ratified the WHO-Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which enlists key strategies for reduction in demand and supply of tobacco products. The WHO-FCTC mandates that all the signatory countries should display pictorial health warnings on the pack of tobacco products.

The government's step assumes significance as majority of the consumers of tobacco are illiterates and semi-literates. Pictorial warnings are very cost-effective and sustainable means of communicating the health risks associated with tobacco usage to the consumers.

According to some estimates, tobacco causes eight lakh deaths and 1.5 lakh cancer cases in India every year.

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